How Sick Is This World?

 

(c) pol ubeda on flickr. Click for source.

(c) pol ubeda on flickr. Click for source.

This world is sick.

We all know it. We all feel it. We all live it.

Sometimes being a Christian feels like a shadow walking through a party. You don’t really belong there, your presence is fleeting and you’re easy for the guests to ignore. C.S. Lewis once presented this metaphor in his book The Great Divorce where he alluded that this world is a world of shadow and illusionment, and the realness of the spiritual world is beyond our comprehension, so real that the blades of grass in heaven would pierce our feet; the feet of shadows. It’s an apt metaphor because in this dying world, we really are strangers. We are meant for another place and our time and mission here is fleeting.

Being a shadow  allows you to see the emptiness of those whom you flit between. Their drawn-out eyes, loud, empty laughs, pasty makeup clinging to dying faces; nothing but mascara on a corpse. It reveals a world of death and decay hidden beneath a facade of merriment and amusement. A viciously self-destructive whirlwind that claims equality and justice and truth yet cannibalizes itself in a never ending battle of competing equalities. A world that screams for egalitarianism and yet is hurriedly engaged in the business of undoing the foundations of justice.

It’s a world of fine contradictions, of carefully levied jabs at each other, of private distaste and public acceptance of various ideological threads. We fight each other with sharp words and take stands against perceived injustice and a great tragedy looms above us that so many do not realize; the tragic irony of no longer knowing what a true injustice looks like, for we have nothing solid to compare it to. We rail against threats to our comfort; against restrictions to our sexual freedom; against 140 character manifestos that cross our inner-moral compass of right and wrong. It is a compass that has changed with the times. North is south, east is west, but where shall we go? Our cultural compass points us to sex and drink and having fun and letting it be and standing aside while true injustice carries on under the lethal banner of “progress”.

And yet we continue on, moving along in our shadowy existence. And do we remember our God’s words, the God who made our world, the God who gave us life, the God who gave us a noble and true standard by which to measure injustice? Do we remember the words of the Lamb who was slain, of the Lion of Judah, who viciously and ruthlessly struck down true wickedness? Do we remember that He told us to love Him first, and everything else second? Do we fall to our knees because we are faced with a knowledge that is so deep, so profound, and so wretchedly uncomfortable that we cannot bear it? Do we believe Him when He says that He has a plan? Do we bow our bitterly prideful heads in submission to a true King? Or do we sit in our broken castles, lamenting the loss of “the good old days” when our problems were more carefully concealed?

We won’t always be shadows. We won’t always be unnoticed. But while we are, we have a profound and terrifying call upon us, to reach out to a broken, contradicting, disgusting, filth-ridden world and say, “There is justice. There is truth. There is love. And He has a name.”

May God give us the grace to see how we have failed Him, and to crawl back for the grace to stand up against true injustice. May He give us clarity to know the difference between the empty screams of the world against bloated insecurities that masquerade as deep issues, and the silent screams of the truly oppressed, of the broken human being made in the image of God who so desperately needs something real. May God help us to be shadows, so that others may look through us and see Him.

 

To Him be the glory.

 

Why “Marriage Isn’t For You” Is Wrong

(c) xElectricHigh on DeviantArt

(c) xElectricHigh on DeviantArt

Yesterday, I reposted the viral article, “Marriage Isn’t For You” by Seth Adam Smith. While I normally write my own stuff, I reposted this particular article because, on first glance, it looked good and I was rushed with some wedding plans and didn’t have time to write. However, a friend (who is married and has more credibility on this issue than I) commented on my repost and brought some really good insights forward.

Namely, that the author is actually wrong.

The whole premise of his article is that marriage isn’t about a selfish quest to make yourself happy, and to a certain extent, he’s right. Marriage isn’t about you. But a lot of Christians, myself included, read through that and thought, “Oh yeah, that sounds Christian. And after all, the only young people to get married are Christians, so this must be from a Christian guy writing about Christian marriage!”

Wrong.

Here’s the thing. Marriage is a beautiful relationship that God created. It should not be about you because marriage shouldn’t be selfish. But it should not be about your spouse. Why? Because you’re marrying a flawed, sinful human being that cannot possibly bear the weight of your worship. Because at that point, that’s what it is. Your spouse becomes an idol when the entire marriage is all about them. If your entire reasoning for getting married is solely to make another person happy, you’ve missed something along the way. Of course, this makes sense considering the author’s viewpoint (a Mormon who subscribes to the “Anasazi Way”, a New Age spiritual philosophy about communal living).

But in some ways, he’s right. Marriage isn’t about you. But it’s not about your spouse. It’s about Jesus. I don’t expect Sean to write about that because he doesn’t believe in the Jesus that I believe in. But Christ has to be the center of a marriage. He brings balance to the whole thing and He is the one we worship. When two people are worshiping Christ within their marriage, then everything else really falls into place.

So is marriage about you? No. Is it about your spouse? No. Is it about Christ? Yes. It has to be about Christ because marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Apart from him, the institution doesn’t make sense. It’s in the picture of Christ giving himself for the Church that we can understand marriage and the love that binds it together.

As my friend said, “Love is centered in Jesus, and true love may not always make your spouse “happy”– sometimes love is shown from one spouse to another through loving rebuke when the other is in sin.”

That’s what marriage is about.

Do You Treat the Church Like a Corporation?

Click for photo souce

Click for photo source

There’s a trend in modern American Christianity. Whether this trend is of our own doing, or is a product of our culture is a subject of debate. There’s a lot of social and historical reasons why we fall into these trends, and it would be great to explore them a little later on. What is this trend?

You could call it the commercialization of the church, and it’s all about running the church like it’s a corporation.

The Church is Not A Company

This is everywhere. Pastors are posting incessantly on their blogs about how to “grow your church” or “attract new followers” or “increase attendance”. Recently, there was a blog from one of these “church consultants” entitled 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Break the 200 Attendance Mark. At the start of the article, the author states that there’s nothing wrong with small churches. He then proceeds to list 8 reasons why being a small church is a negative. The problem was that this list could have applied to a small business, not a church.

And therein lies the problem: too many people view the church as a corporation that has to turn a profit or meet quarterly goals or boost sales to appease shareholders. In the church-as-corporation world, if a church isn’t growing every week, then something must be wrong with it. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of American churches have less than 100 members in attendance. While we do have a responsibility to go out into our community and witness to others about the Gospel, we can’t force growth. It has to be blessed by God, and if we try and make our church more like a business in order to attract followers, we risk losing the Gospel in the process.

Pastors Are Caretakers, Not CEOs

In the list mentioned above, the number one reason the author says is wrong with small churches is that the pastor is the primary caregiver. It’s hard to read a Christian list that claims that the number one problem with church growth in America is actually the most important thing that pastors are supposed to do (1 Peter 5:2-3). As in, that’s literally the definition of pastor. If we didn’t have the mindset that the church is a business, we wouldn’t be listing Biblical commands as “problems”.

It’s can be a little sad when there’s a funeral or a wedding and the pastor officiating talks about the parties involved in an abstract kind of way because he doesn’t have a personal relationship with them. It’s valuable to have a pastor that can actually relate to the people involved because it’s been his job to shepherd them as part of his flock. We live in the age of the celebrity pastor, where it’s fashionable to strive to have the largest Twitter/Facebook/Blog following that you can have. It’s almost as if the success of ministry is measured by the number of Facebook likes. Is that the way Jesus wanted the church to be run?

The Purpose of the Church

The truth is that when the focus of a church becomes all about growth and achieving set goals and increasing membership, the ministry of the church gets lost. It’s ironic how we can be so focused on growing attendance that we offer nothing when the attendees arrive. Did Jesus want His church to be all about “acting like a big organization” and “increasing membership”? Sure, growth is a good thing, and we should be doing our job to try and grow. But ultimately, the Holy Spirit and the work of Jesus is what grows a church. When you start arbitrarily setting membership goals that you can only reach by God’s grace, the temptation is strong to start incorporating entertainment and gimmicks to gain membership.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The foundation of growing a church is letting Jesus grow it, and making disciples of all nations and preaching the Gospel faithfully. The moment the mission of the Gospel is eclipsed by business-like goals, something has gone wrong. There is no point in asking sinners to fellowship with other sinners in the light of redemptive grace if our intent in leading them to worship is not so they can know Christ, but so that we can add a number to our count. We should pray that the Gospel comes first, and that any effort to grow the church is done in submission to Him. It’s His church, after all.

What do you think? Overreaction or spot on? Sound off in the comments about your thoughts on the commercialization of the church. 

3 Ways Men Have Failed Women

(c) vino on flickr

(c) vino on flickr

Our generation has lost what it means to be a man. This problem is well-noted by many in society, from churches to social commentators to websites like Art of Manliness that focus on teaching modern day men to recover what has been lost. Men have become accustomed to being takers and not givers, which has helped contribute to the breakdown in the family. Many of society’s ills can be traced back to this breakdown, especially considering that the greatest indicator for poverty is marital status. Men have abdicated their responsibility, so I thought it would be beneficial to look at  three important ways that men have failed women, especially in this generation.

#3. We Stopped Working

The Problem: We treat our lives outside of a “job” as a recreational opportunity, devoid of responsibility.

The Analysis: Brett McKay of Art of Manliness has written how modern man’s dilemma is that he no longer strives to take responsibility for everything in his life. We may work in the sense that we have the 9-5 job that brings home the bacon, but the temptation is so strong to just “tune out” and ignore our families and communities. Sometimes, the tuning out is just a way of life, to the point where we become so completely adverse to responsibility that we become completely unproductive human beings. It gets so bad that we outsource our usefulness to women, which is ultimately a disservice to them, because now they have to be twice as productive to compensate for deadbeat men. We abdicated our responsibility to women, who now feel that they have to be the responsible adults in relationships (whether romantic or otherwise). On every level, it is pathetic for a man to implicitly force a woman to carry the weight that should rest on his shoulders. In a very real sense, it’s sexism because it forces a woman to balance to roles, even if the woman feels empowered for having more power in the relationship.

The Cure: Own up to our sin of laziness and apathy and learn the lessons of Proverbs 6:6.

#2. We Fueled the Internet Pornography Empire

The Problem: When we decided that a woman was not a worthy thing to fight for, we began using them.

The Analysis: Porn is a big problem. Like, a really, really, really HUGE problem. The average age of exposure for porn is 11 years old. For every 10 men in church, 5 are struggling with pornography. And to give you an idea of the prevalence of this problem, 70% of 18-to-24-year-old men visit pornographic sites in a typical month. 66% of men in their 20s and 30s also report being regular users of pornography (Source). The fact is that this generation of men has grown up with instantaneous access to every kind of hardcore pornography in existence. It’s not just on our computers anymore. It’s on our mobile devices and every other kind of Internet connected gadget. Porn teaches us that women are objects to be used for our own conquests. It kills our instinct to protect those who are weak and vulnerable and instead exploits people for profit (it’s no coincidence that modern sex trafficking has kept pace with the porn industry). Not to mention it does tremendous damage to personal relationships by eroding trust and intimacy. There is a lot out there on why porn is insanely destructive, and it’s not the purpose here to delve into all of the reasons why it’s destructive. But the fact is that we have once again abandoned our responsibility to guard our hearts and our eyes and protect our sisters. We have absolutely failed women in this regard because we have done the worst possible thing: we have turned women into commodities.

The Cure: Get on your face before Jesus and learn the lessons of Psalm 118:5 and numerous other verses that feature crying out to God. Cry out to God and he will hear you. And if you’re in real trouble, visit Setting Captives Free.

#1. We Stopped Caring About Kids

The Problem: Along with using porn as a cheap substitute for love and intimacy, men decided that kids were a burden that needed to be abandoned.

The Analysis: Fatherlessness is another huge problem. There are studies upon studies that document the damage done when a father walks out on their kids. Numerous Hollywood blockbusters feature main characters that have “Daddy issues”. The truth is that there is no greater responsibility than caring for a child. Since men in this generation are experts in avoiding responsibility, ditching children is a no-brainer for the footloose and fancy free man. And what’s the easiest way to ditch your kids? For many, the answer is abortion. (The recent campaign known as #brochoice is a perfect summary of men who want to shirk responsibility and use women purely as sexual objects). Boyfriends pressuring their girlfriends to get an abortion is a fairly frequent phenomena. They want to avoid the responsibility, and if they don’t succeed in convincing their girlfriends to get abortions, they leave, and even when they do get it, they still leave. Some sources say that up to 70% of romantic relationships end after an abortion (Source). Fatherlessness is a growing epidemic, with as many as 1/4 of all children living without a father, and in many minority communities, the number is much higher (Source). The result: men have failed women by creating legions of single mothers, who are the most likely in society to live in poverty.

The Cure: Own up to our responsibility to be husbands and fathers. Learn the lessons of Psalm 127: 3-5.

I’m in no way suggesting that these problems are new (using women as objects is a problem as old as Adam). But in some ways, they seem to have particularly potent influence on this generation, and something needs to be done about it. Men need to grow up, take responsibility and turn to the only one who can really change them: Jesus Christ.

That’s it! If you liked the post, leave a comment or like it and follow! Thanks!

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3 Songs You Should Drop Everything And Listen To Right Now

Lately, I have had 3 very specific tunes constantly running through my head. It’s been great listening to my mind’s radio recently, because luckily, I love these songs! I highly recommend each of these, so let’s dig in!

The Gospel by Geoff Krieger

This song is sweet, succinct and catchy. A buddy of mine did some of the instruments and production for the song, and it turned out very well.

Why It’s Good: I love this song because the chorus draws some very specific allusions to the Bible that I find very comforting. The chorus says, “And soon, this mortal wave will part for us, then you and I will cross the sea on holy dust. In time, the storms of life will pass us by, and broken hearts will heal when they know the gospel.” The theme of “you and I” is reinforced by the introduction of group vocals, which provides support to the theme and message.  The melody gives a sense of hope and the words tell you that there is hope and eventually, this life will be over and we will go to another place. For Christians, that is a blessed reminder.

Where can I hear it? Visit Geoff’s Soundcloud. You’ll be glad you did. The Gospel – Geoff Krieger

We Found Love by Lindsey Stirling

This song has also been dominating my mind lately. In case you have not yet experienced Lindsey Stirling, go check out her YouTube page. Seriously. She’s absolutely incredible and one of my all-time favorite artists. About a year ago, she covered Rihanna’s “We Found Love” after a trip to Kenya that profoundly affected her. She took a pop song that was pretty mediocre and turned it into something that’s really beautiful.

Why It’s Good: The combination of the African harmonies and drums with the very Western sound of Lindsey’s violin creates a melodious juxtaposition that’s simply sweet. The melody awakens a sense of possibility and adventure, as the vocalist (Alisha Popat) sings about finding love in a whole new place. The original version says, “We found love in a hopeless place.” Lindsey, after her experience in Kenya, changed the lyrics to “We found love in a holy place/ We found love in a whole new place.”

Listen to it on YouTube, or watch it here:

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty

This song is such an encouragement. It’s a modern hymn that is all about trusting Jesus through life’s trials and it’s a wonderful reminder of our beautiful Savior and His work.

Why It’s Good:  “Jesus draw me ever nearer / As I labour through the storm. / You have called me to this passage, / and I’ll follow, though I’m worn.” Just read those words.  That’s why it’s good.

Listen to it here. 

Quotable

“True freedom is knowing your place.” – Greg Uttinger

We seek freedom in a lot of different things. Substance, experience, escapism. But real freedom comes from Christ. Real freedom is settling into your identity in who He is. We are slaves to Christ. True freedom is blessed slavery to Jesus.

Chew on that for a bit. 🙂

The Greatest Truth About Jesus

In my humble opinion, the simplest truth about God is also the greatest and most profound. It is the key to finding victory over habitual sin. It is the secret to a long and happy life. And it so perfectly sums up what Jesus and His Kingdom is all about. Like so many things in God’s kingdom, a few simple words require tons of background knowledge. Without a proper understanding of who God is, it just doesn’t make any sense. So what is the greatest truth about Jesus?

If you seek God, you will find Him.

Boom, we’re done. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. It is exceedingly simple, yet incredibly difficult. It’s magnificently wonderful, but excruciatingly painful. This promise is repeated throughout Scripture and it’s sweetness permeates every verse in the Bible.

Specifically, I’ve been getting this a lot from Psalm 34 (which I’ve been stuck in for about a week and a half). Verse 4 says, “I sought the LORD and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Verse 17 reiterates this theme, “The righteous cry out and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” Going back a couple chapters, Psalm 30:2 says, “O LORD my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.” Psalm 28:6 says, “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the voice of my supplications.”

God hears us. He is always there for us, and He has promised over, and over, and over, and over again that if we look for Him, if we seek Him, if we cry out to Him, then, He will be found, He will hear us, and He will deliver us.

This is so profound. It’s so important. Are you stuck in depression? Seek the Lord, and you will find Him. And He will deliver you. Are you in bondage to sexual impurity? Seek the Lord, and you will find Him. And He will deliver you. Are you crushed beneath a thousand financial burdens and you don’t know what to do? Seek the Lord and you will find Him. And He will deliver you.

Notice, that implicit in this statement is a submission to God. You seek the Lord because you realize that the answer is not to be found within you. We are broken creatures with desperately wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) and we must be honest with ourselves in realizing that if we really are broken and wicked, then the answer to our brokenness and wickedness cannot possibly be found within us. The answer has to lie outside of us. And the answer lies with Jesus.

Also implicit here is that God is the focus. We seek Him, because He is worthy to be sought. He is found by us because His love allows Him to be found by us. And He delivers us because He has the power to do so, He has the love to compel him to do so, and He has the glory that shines when He does so. It’s about Him, friends. Not us.

Seek the Lord. And you will find Him.